Sports influence all ages and garner passionate fans regardless of the gender, race, or background. No matter what corner of the globe you may be located, there is sport being played by youth and through them lies numerous coaching opportunities to positively make an impact on their lives while also promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Nobody plays a bigger role in helping athletes reach their potential in the game, and in life, than coaches. Coaches have the unique platform to help youth in every aspect of sports, from helping them discover the game, to developing their skills, to fostering growth so they are capable of performing at a high level of competition. These individuals are leaders, teachers, and role models to their athletes, no matter the country or sport.
The individual drive a coach has and the values they pursue through coaching young athletes ultimately lead to what kind of fingerprint they will have in developing our youth into total athletes: Mentally, Athletically, Spiritually, and Socially. Unfortunately in today’s society, this impact has seen more of a negative turn as coaches are more often than not sacrificing the long-term success of athletes for short-term gain.
As we look to November as a time to show appreciation to all our coaches, we wanted to share the story of Ira. She wrote us from Ukraine, and her story not only expresses the importance of a coach to young athletes, but also how a relationship with Christ is something a coach can introduce to their athletes that will positively impact them more than any taught skill on the court.
Hi, my name is Ira, and I work within the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Ukraine. With our organization, we have a chance to serve coaches and athletes around the community and introduce them to the grace and love I’ve experienced from God.
I’d like to tell the story of one of my basketball players, Natasha, and how her spiritual journey not only transformed her, but also impacted how I view my walk with Christ.
I met Natasha in one of the basketball tournaments we held within our program. We had an instant connection, so much that when we first met, she hugged me, and it was as if we had known each other all along. It was so strange at the time, but she said “I feel like I was meant to meet you today.”
As we got to know each other, we started talking about life’s purpose. I asked why she played basketball and what her goals, dreams, and ambitions were. She looked puzzled and couldn’t come up with any direct answer to my questions. It was apparent she never had anyone pursue her development and faith with strong ambition.
I started telling her my story and eventually got to explain what it means to walk in faith. She asked, “Why would you help me so much?” My answer was simple, l loved her as God, my father has loved me.
After some time, Natasha started visiting a church and youth huddles. Her relationship with God began to grow, and she learned how to speak with God through prayer.
One day, Natasha called me and sounded completely broken. She had a tough game, her coach was upset with her, and she didn’t know how to handle the situation. As a coach, I had many ways to approach the conversation, but in this case I felt it necessary for her to take her troubles to God. I told her she needed to find her purpose in life and decide what her passions truly were. We spoke for a period of time, and I was able to get her to realize that while I’m one of her coaches, the coach that she needed to take her issues and prayers to was God. We prayed together, and I let her see that God is always there and that he never puts more on us than we can handle.
After time had passed, Natasha came back and told me that her relationship with the basketball team had recovered. Since she began praying and relying on God, she had begun to work through troubles in her life, and she even said that she felt her purpose in life was to live in peace and show love to others. She had become a vessel to display God’s light to her team, family, and everyone she came in contact with.
With all these blessings appearing in Natasha’s life, the greatest had to be that she started to passionately pursue God and wanted to grow closer to him. Everyday I get to see how her life has changed. It is such a blessing, and my relationship with God has grown stronger through her.
In a few months, Natasha will begin playing with the Ukrainian Youth National Team. I ask for you to pray for Natasha in this next step in her journey and for God to remain close to her heart; for I know God is all she will need.